Do We Need a Pep Talk? A Sign That All Is Not Lost?
Yesterday’s Jolt prompted “Blaknsam” to complete what I suspect is a long-brewing lament that on so many fronts, it feels like life is getting worse for so many. He begins with a trip to Barnes & Noble that showcases a selection of coarse, vulgar book titles that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, and concludes:
Politically, culturally, socially . . . you name it, I feel like we’re under attack. The weapons being used are mockery, scorn, and condescension. It’s almost everywhere you turn: television, movies, music, newspapers, magazines (a recent issue of Newsweek ran a cover story called “Why Are Obama’s Critics So Dumb?” which was written by a man who insists that Sarah Palin’s son Trig was actually born to Bristol Palin), politics, the Internet.
Of course it’s not all bad. There are good movies, good TV shows, good songs. There are even some decent politicians. But the cumulative effect of fifteen or twenty years of scandal, war, depravity, terrorism, recession, and corruption . . . well, it’s enough to make a man want to stay in bed with the covers over his head.
I am blessed with a sizeable and (knocking on wood) loyal audience. I get a lot of e-mail, all day long. Some of it kind, some of it critical, the occasional nasty ones, and I probably complain about them too much. But in the past few years I’ve noticed an interesting trend in the kind ones. The tone is often, “You make me laugh as I read the news, and it’s the only way I can stand it.” “The news is often so depressing and bad, but somehow when I read what you write I feel like it’s going to be okay.”
That’s flattering, kind, and . . . a little unnerving in its responsibility. I’m starting to feel like the Tony Robbins for center-right news junkies.
“Seek, and ye shall find.” Whatever you look for, you tend to find; whatever you’re not looking for, you tend to miss. If you look for signs that we’re on the verge of cultural collapse, they will not be hard to find. But if you wish to see signs of life getting better, and an American or Western culture, still thriving and creative and churning, you can find that, too.
Off the top of my head:
· They’re about to release a movie in which the U.S. Navy Seals are played by actual active-duty Navy Seals. How cool is that? No, really. Go watch the “Behind the Scenes” in which they’re filming on aircraft carriers and jumping out of airplanes and behind speeding boats. You thought “Top Gun” was an effective Naval recruitment film? This looks like the big-screen celebration of American military heroism we’ve been yearning to see for a long time.
· The other night Adele won armfuls of Grammy awards, and is a simultaneous critical darling and huge bestseller (the longest-running number-one album in about 20 years). Her style is the old school, inspired by Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, and Roberta Flack. She doesn’t look like a Barbie doll, and her signature hit, “Someone Like You,” doesn’t quite fit the narrative of our allegedly decadent times; it’s about loving someone when you can’t be with them, in a mature, accepting way, without bitterness or jealousy.
· We may be entering a golden age of vocally Christian athletes who are, so far, the quintessential role models, with Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin.
· We’re a frenetic, hyper-caffeinated culture with no memory, no appreciation of what’s come before, no recognition of tradition . . . and yet one of the Oscar favorites is a tribute to silent film.
Okay, so even if there are bright spots in the arts, politics is a disaster . . .
Sociologist Richard Florida notes, “Even with the president’s approval rating showing signs of life and the Republicans busily bashing themselves over the head — ‘one is a practicing polygamist and he’s not even the Mormon,’ retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recently quipped about her party’s two frontrunners — America continues to track right, according to polling data released by the Gallup Organization last week. Americans at this political moment are significantly more likely to identify as conservative than as liberal: conservatives outnumber liberals by nearly two to one. Forty percent identify as conservative, 36 percent as moderate, and 21 percent liberal.”
In the golden age of conservatism and American values – whenever that was – there were perhaps a handful of prominent conservative voices with significant followings and influence. Before talk radio, before the Internet, before the rise of alternative media, when the barriers to access to the world of mass media were much higher, it was a much more select club. This is not to take away from the accomplishments of the William F. Buckleys, the Bob Novaks, the R. Emmett Tyrells – they’re irreplaceable. But they have been followed by a not-so-small army of folks fighting the same fight in a thousand different ways.
Think about how many conservative voices you read, watch, or listen to today, large and small, regularly or irregularly. I’ll bet you can come up with dozens.
Columnists: Mark Steyn, Thomas Sowell, Ann Coulter, Walter Williams, Michelle Malkin, David Limbaugh, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Samuelson, Michael Barone, Cal Thomas, John Podhoretz, Byron York, David Freddoso, Mona Charen, Peggy Noonan, George Will, Andrea Peyser, S. E. Cupp, Andrea Tarantos, Paul Gigot, David Brooks, Steve Forbes, Bill Kristol, everybody else at the Weekly Standard, Pat Buchanan, Karl Rove, John Gizzi, Mark Tapscott, Deroy Murdock, James Pethokoukis, Phil Klein, James Lileks . . .
On the radio: Rush, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Hugh Hewitt, Neal Boortz, Mike Gallagher, Jerry Doyle, Lou Dobbs, Michael Medved, Bill Bennett, Lars Larson, John & Ken, Roger Hedgecock, Dennis Miller, Dennis Prager, Jay Severin, John Gibson, Brian Kilmeade, Ron Reagan, Cam Edwards, Michael Graham, Mary Katharine Ham . . .
On television: Bill O’Reilly, Dana Perino, Alex Castellanos, Mary Matalin, Liz Cheney, John McLaughlin, Greg Gutfeld (the whole RedEye crew), Dana Loesch, Jedediah Bila . . . shouldn’t we throw in Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee? Oliver North?
In the Internet and blogosphere: Glenn Reynolds, Erick Erickson, Moe Lane, Leon Wolf, and the gang at Red State, Ed Morrissey, Jazz Shaw, Allahpundit and the Hot Air gang, Andrew Breitbart, Katie Pavelich, Tucker Carlson and the whole Daily Caller gang, Conn Carroll, Robert Stacy McCain, Kurt Schlichter, Guy Benson, Jeff Goldstein and the guys at Protein Wisdom, Ace and the whole gang at Ace of Spades, the whole gang at Newsbusters, James Taranto, the whole gang at Commentary’s Contentions, Sean Trende, Jay Cost, Steve Eggleston, Kevin Bindersie, Patterico, Elizabeth Crum, Melissa Clouthier, the Anchoress, Mollie Hemingway and all of the contributors at Ricochet . . .
And this is all separate from NRO. It’s also separate from voices on the Right that don’t quite fit the above categories, pollsters like Scott Rasmussen, filmmakers like Stephen Bannon, novelists like Brad Thor, celebrity-activists like Patricia Heaton, Janine Turner, Stephen Baldwin . . . Actor-pundit Adam Baldwin . . . How would we classify a voice like Fred Thompson? Some time in radio, often on television, popping up online . . .
In these allegedly better days of the past, Frank J., Jim Treacher and Iowahawk didn’t get a platform to make us laugh.
Worst of all, I know I left off probably hundreds of folks with audiences across the country and world who I should have remembered. If Morning Jolt does nothing else . . . okay, that’s setting the bar too low. One of the things the Morning Jolt should do is introduce you to funny, insightful, enlightening and enjoyable voices you might not otherwise encounter.
(“So why didn’t you link to all of the names listed above?” Carpal-tunnel would set in, for starters. Google them, you’ll find what you’re looking for.)
Look, of course there are a lot of days where the news is bad. Greg Corombus and I have some days where we are so stuck for a “Good Martini” for the Three Martini Lunch that we start looking for out-of-the-margin-of-error poll swings. Our friends on the Left have spent the past thirty (Forty? Sixty? 100?) years waking up every morning and pushing the ball as far as they can in their direction. Some days they move the ball a lot, some days they move the ball a little or almost none at all. But you rarely hear them whining that it’s all too hard and that they’re quitting. They’re disturbingly patient and dedicated. They just get up every morning and keep pushing, confident that they’ll get the results they want, sooner or later.
Some days I think we could learn a lot from that.
The only problem with putting together lists like the ones above is that inevitably someone will write in, “How could you forget so-and-so?” and you’ll ask yourself, “Yeah, how did I forget so-and-so?”